Wales boss Robert Page accepts neutrals will back Ukraine if teams meet in World Cup play-off



Wales are one win from “living the dream” at the World Cup and manager Robert Page says they would have to “strip the emotions away” were they to meet war-torn Ukraine for a place in Qatar.

Page’s side booked their place in the World Cup play-off final by beating Austria 2-1 on Thursday and will now meet Scotland or Ukraine.

That semi-final has been postponed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with June being the most likely option for a new date.

But Scotland boss Steve Clarke suggested this week the tie could be delayed further ahead of the next international window in September.

“There’s a lot of dates getting thrown around but nothing’s set in stone, nothing’s confirmed,” said Wales manager Page, who is not planning to attend the World Cup finals draw in Doha on 1 April.

“As far as I am concerned the game is going ahead in June. That’s all we can do.

“We can just plan for June. We have to just sit tight and wait to hear from Uefa and Fifa and when they decide what they are going to do.

“But we’re one game away from living the dream, which is getting to a World Cup

Although in a completely different set of circumstances, Wales found themselves playing opponents at Euro 2020 last summer who were able to count on the support of neutrals.

Wales met Denmark in the round of 16 after the Danes’ popular midfielder Christian Eriksen had suffered a cardiac arrest during the group game against Finland.

Page said: “I get why people supported Denmark in the Euros with Christian and rightly so. It will be the same with Ukraine. I completely understand that people will support Ukraine.

“It’s appalling what the Ukrainians are having to go through. It’s not acceptable at all. Every day you watch the news and it’s not right.

“Understandably, if Ukraine do well and go through then there’s going to be the world supporting them because of the emotion attached to it.

“If they do get to the end, we need to strip the emotions away from that. It will be business as usual. We will have a job to do, going out to win the game.”

Gareth Bale scored two marvelous goals as Wales overcame Austria to extend their unbeaten home record to 17 games, a run stretching back to November 2018.

Bale has played only 77 minutes for Real Madrid since the end of August, and Page is not concerned whether his talismanic captain plays much football before the summer’s Nations League games and potential World Cup play-off final.

“When he goes and gives a performance like that, off the back of not having minutes on the pitch, it’s not a concern to me whatsoever,” Page said of Bale’s lack of game time in club football.

“We’ve had this probably for 12 to 18 months now where our top players are not playing domestic football week in week out, but they still deliver on the big nights.

“I’m not too concerned about that when he proves he steps up like that and wins the game for us. He can’t influence what is being said about him over there. He can only train and if he’s not selected, he’s not selected.

“When he comes away on camp with me then I am going to play him if he is fit. It’s as simple as that.”


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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